Nearing the November elections, Intuit Inc. has given $1 million to a California political action committee called the Alliance for California's Tomorrow.The group has already spent $66,000 supporting the campaign of Republican Tony Strickland for state controller, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper posits that Intuit has inserted itself into the controller's campaign as part of its fight to block the Franchise Tax Board from simplifying the state income tax filing process. The paper reported that John Chiang, a lawyer and member of the State Board of Equalization, had support the state’s ReadyReturn program from his position on the board.

The ReadyReturn program was designed to make tax return filing easier for taxpayers who file the state’s simplest returns. The state filled in information from taxpayers and employers and then did the math for participants, requiring taxpayers to only verify the information, make any necessary changes, before signing and submitting the return.

After running a successful pilot program during the 2004 tax year, California’s Franchise Tax Board expanded the program for the 2005 tax year, completing the processing of more than 10,000 returns. According to reports, earlier this year, Democrats had introduced a bill to expand the program to 1 million taxpayers for the 2006 tax year, and up to 4 million taxpayers in the future. Republicans in the California legislature were successful in halting the program entirely.

The state controller sits on the Franchise Tax Board, the three-member panel that oversees state income tax policy, and also serves on the five-member Board of Equalization, which oversees sales and property tax issues and whose chairman, who also sits on the Franchise Tax Board. Whoever wins the controller's will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control both boards.

According to the paper, from his position on the Board of Equalization, Chiang supported ReadyReturn and a lobbying effort by Intuit earlier this year helped convince the legislature to not spend more on ReadyReturn.

Asked for comment by the paper, Intuit issues a statement saying that it supports "candidates of both parties who are champions of good public policy."

Incumbent Steve Westly is stepping down from the post after an unsuccessful run for governor in the June primary.

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